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Charitable superpowers get it wrong

first_imgJeffery Sachs, who spoke at the  Oxford Union on Sunday, is the intellectual guru of the ‘Drop the Debt’ campaign and the world’s most famous development economist. He began his career as a hard-line free marketeer. As an advisor to Boris Yeltsin’s government in the early nineties he was responsible for the introduction of the disastrous “shock-therapy” of instant deregulation and privatisation which sent the Russian economy into freefall. A market Bolshevik no longer, Sachs has since turned his attention to Africa and the elimination of global extreme poverty within twenty years through a combination of debt relief, increased aid, and trade reform. For Sachs, democracy is not a part of this equation. He states bluntly in his new book, The End of Poverty, that “the links from democracy to economic performance are relatively weak” and that “the charge of authoritarian rule as a basic obstacle to good governance in Africa is pass”. Sachs’ fondness for railing against the neo-liberal “Washington Consensus” and the Bush administration might thus be explained by an enthusiasm for an earlier Republican ideologue, Henry Kissinger. Kissinger, who would be brought to the Hague on charges of war crimes if the US ever signed up to the International Criminal Court, did not care about democracy either. For Kissinger, monstrous dictators like Pinochet, Mobutu, Amin, and Papa Doc Duvalier may have been “bastards” but it didn’t matter because they were “our bastards”. Sachs, and his bleeding heart fellow travellers Blair, Bono and Bob Geldof, have their own set of “bastards”: rulers like Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Paul Kagame of Rwanda. None of these have been fairly elected and all are pumped full of praise and aid by Britain and the US. Until recently, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda would have been on this list. His attempts to rid Uganda of condoms no doubt still ingratiate him with the Americans. But now that he has decided to turn twenty years of dictatorial rule into a life presidency, he has been mildly rebuked. At the launch of the Commission for Africa report in Addis Ababa in March, Geldof declared, “Get a grip Museveni – your time is up, go away”. He has since apologised. Sitting alongside Geldof was fellow Commission member, Zenawi, who was returned to office in May courtesy of a rigged election. His security forces mowed down dozens who had the temerity to protest. These men are just the West’s presentable allies. In blatant contradiction with its avowed wish to see democracy flourish the world over, Washington embraces the vile dictator, Obiang Mbasago, of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. Jacques Chirac, who wants to slap a fiver on every plane ticket to fund poverty reduction, described the brutal Gnassingbe Eyadema, deceased President of Togo, as a “personal friend” when he died in February after 38 years in charge. This may have been related to Eyadema’s generous funding of French political parties and the benevolence shown to individual French politicians who happened to be passing through his palace. Eyadema could afford this because he had amassed a fortune believed to be in the region of $3 billion; that is thrice Togo’s annual GNP.The example illustrates why Sachs’ view that dictatorship is no bar to economic development is false. The reason Africa is so poor is that kleptocratic dictators and elites, often with Western connivance, have looted their own countries. They are also inclined to be incompetent. The simple virtue of democracy is that it allows people to get rid of bad governments peacefully. The number of functioning democracies in Africa can be counted on two hands. Among them are Africa’s most prosperous and stable states: South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Senegal, Ghana, Benin and the Cape Verde islands. Sachs regards China as an example of how a ruthless dictatorship can prosper. However, he admits in The End of Poverty that poverty has increased in rural areas there because of the abandonment of the public health system. A democratic government would never have been able to disregard public welfare so heartlessly.        The triumvirate of Sachs, Bono, and Geldof is immensely powerful. Able to influence both governments and public opinion, they are right to attempt to combine high-level lobbying with mass politics. It is thus dismaying that such potential for real change has been squandered on fringe issues in the war on poverty. The only reason debt is a problem is that the money was stolen and dissipated. The torrent of criticism directed against them for endorsing the status quo of Western power is similarly misguided. It is the very Western status quo of democracy and human rights which is lacking in Africa. More than any amount of charity, this is how to make poverty history. ARCHIVE: 1st week MT 2005last_img read more

World Food Prize

first_imgStudents in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) spend a lot of class time discussing ways to end food insecurity, but there are many lessons that can’t be learned in the classroom.In November, two CAES students learned from those on the front lines of the fight against hunger when they were chosen by the CAES Office of Global Programs to attend the 2018 World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines, Iowa.Sara Reeves, a junior majoring in agricultural education and earning a certificate in international agriculture, and Davis Musia Gimode, who is pursuing a doctorate in plant-breeding genetics and genomics, earned World Food Prize Travel Awards through an essay contest sponsored by the Office of Global Programs. Entrants were challenged to describe their knowledge and interest in addressing the global issues of sustainable agriculture, food security and improved nutrition.“I have experience and understand how important food security is, but I didn’t have the practical knowledge about how I could initiate change in the communities I work in,” said Reeves, who spends a month each summer working with residents in Iganga, Uganda. Her ties to the African country began in 2012 after her family became guardians for two sisters from the town.Reeves found a quote by one of this year’s World Food Prize laureates to be particularly meaningful.“In his speech, Dr. David Nabarro said, ‘Until the agency of women is realized, we will not solve the issue of malnutrition,’” Reeves recalls. “It resonated with me that a lot of women aren’t included in agriculture, especially in improving agricultural practices.”She looks forward to returning to Uganda this summer and talking with community and church leaders about being more inclusive of women.“I can talk with Pastor Moses, a leader in the community and a dear friend, and with his congregation about being more open to women’s involvement in agriculture,” Reeves said. “I can go out in the field and present more ideas.”For Gimode, the World Food Prize symposium provided opportunities to talk with international leaders about how to take his knowledge out of the lab and into the world.“The symposium provided a global perspective in a way that I hadn’t understood before,” Gimode said. “It highlighted the fact that — right now— we can produce so much food, but yet there are billions of people without access to food.”Gimode gained new insights through discussions with attendees such as Mwangi Kiunjuri, director for Kenya’s Ministry for Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Irrigation; and Gebisa Ejeta of Purdue University, 2009 World Food Prize laureate.“I’m concerned (with) plant genetics, but it takes more than genetics to address issues of food security,” he said. “I discovered there are more ways to bring my narrow focus into a more global perspective.”A native of Kenya, Gimode hopes to someday return to his home country, but in the meantime, he plans to build the network he began at the symposium.“Now, I’m seeing how I can make a meaningful impact by combining science and policy making,” he said.The Office of Global Programs established the competitive award for students interested in attending and participating in the symposium in 2015.“The World Food Prize symposium is an inspiring event that brings people together from all over the world but is small enough to feel intimate,” said Vicki McMaken, associate director for the Office of Global Programs. “Participants, including our student winners, have the opportunity to share conversations with past and present World Food Prize laureates, representatives from governments, universities, donor agencies, multinational corporations, farmers, and even high school students and teachers participating in the Global Youth Institute.”The annual symposium was established by Norman Borlaug in 1986 to focus on the most critical issues facing global food security. The event regularly attracts more than 1,000 participants from more than 50 countries for keynote lectures and round table discussions and has been called “the premier conference in the world on global agriculture.”In addition to the World Food Prize essay competition, the Office of Global Programs offers competitive grants for graduate students traveling abroad for research or to attend international conferences. The office also offers scholarships for students who hope to study abroad, participate in an international student exchange program or conduct international internships.For more information about the opportunities offered by the Office of Global Programs, visit read more

Trump touts stock market’s record run, but who benefits?

first_imgWhat’s more, nearly 90 percent of families who own stock do so through a tax-deferred retirement account, meaning they can’t access the money until they reach retirement age, unless they pay a penalty, Wolff said.So who owns most of the stock market? The majority of corporate equities and mutual fund shares are held by investors who are white, college educated and above the age of 54, according to an analysis from the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.The typical middle-class family gets the bulk of its wealth from the housing market. Households in the middle three quintiles of wealth held 61.9 percent of their assets in their principal residence in 2016, according to Wolff’s analysis. That compares to households in the top 1 percent, who held 7.6 percent of their wealth in their homes.Because most consumers accumulate the majority of their wealth through their homes, a rise in property values can provide a more substantial boost to household wealth than a stock market rally, said William Emmons, lead economist at the St. Louis Fed’s Center for Household Financial Stability.Still, the recent revival in the housing market, spurred in part by the Federal Reserve’s interest rate cuts, is not helping all Americans equally. Rising property values benefit homeowners but make it harder for aspiring home buyers to break into the market, said Eugene Steuerle, co-founder of the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture between the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution.And some people who bought homes immediately before the recession hit may still be trying to recover their losses, Steuerle said. Their wealth may have been wiped out by foreclosure, meaning they then struggled to qualify for a new mortgage during the recovery, he said.That’s in sharp contrast to well-off investors, whose overall wealth surged after the crisis thanks to strong returns on stocks, property and other investments. Some 72 percent of wealth accumulated between the third quarter of 2009 and the third quarter of 2019 went to the richest 10 percent of households, according to an analysis by Oxford Economics. Over that same time period, the poorest 50 percent of households reaped only 2 percent of wealth gains.“There are a lot of families that have not yet recovered from the financial crisis,” Emmons said.Some more evidence that the recent stock market boom is not making everyone feel richer: There has been little evidence of the “wealth effect,” which says that people tend to spend more when stock markets are up, said Lydia Boussour, a senior economist for Oxford Economics.Since the recession, people have mostly continued to increase their savings even as the stock market rose. “Consumers are a lot more cautious,” she said.Topics : Donald Trump loves to trumpet the hot US stock market as a key achievement of his presidency, and he was in full self-congratulatory mode on that front during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.“All of those millions of people with 401(k)s and pensions are doing far better than they have ever done before with increases of 60, 70, 80, 90 and 100 percent and even more,” Trump said in his address to a joint session of Congress.While pensions and retirement funds were lifted by the rise in stock markets, the president has avoided talking about one key point about who really benefits when the market rallies: Most of the gains go to the small portion of Americans who are already rich. That’s because 84 percent of stocks owned by US households are held by the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans, according to an analysis of 2016 Federal Reserve data by Edward Wolff, an economics professor at New York University. So when the stock market has a blockbuster year – such as the nearly 30 percent rise in the S&P 500 benchmark index in 2019 – the payoff primarily goes to people who are already rich.“For most Americans, a stock price increase is pretty immaterial to their well-being,” said Wolff, who published a paper about wealth inequality in the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2017.Roughly half of Americans own some stocks through a brokerage account or a pension or retirement fund. But for most people, the exposure is too small for market gains to be life-changing or leave them feeling much better about their finances, Wolff said. “They’ll see a small increase in their wealth, but it’s not going to be anything to write home about,” he said.US stock boom’s unequal gains. (Reuters/Howard Schneider)last_img read more